SofTel SIP Phone Service Purchase Memorandum
Note: SFU SofTel has been replaced with Bria Stretto. Please visit the Bria Stretto webpage for more information.
What is SFU's SofTel SIP Phone Service?
SFU is making a new telephone plus service available to faculty and staff called "SofTel SIP Phone service". Essentially SofTel is a software application that runs on your notebook computer that allows you to make telephone calls over the internet using voice over internet protocol or VoIP technology. As a telephone SFU SofTel SIP Phone service allows you to call any standard telephone as if you were dialing from any SFU campus, for example:
- SFU five digit locals, e.g. 2,1234
- Local Vancouver area, dial e.g., 9,604-555-1234
- Dial long distance from Vancouver area, e.g 9,1-416-555-1234, or 9,011-etc (To dial outside the local Vancouver calling area approval to accept LD charges must be obtained from the employee's Department. Without approval LD will be restricted.) Anyone can call you on your SofTel phone by dialing 778-782-SIPLocal (eg., 778-782-1234)
You can also call direct from one SIP phone user to another. Many educational institutions are now offering a SIP phone service so that users can dial directly to another SIP phone without going through the public telephone network, thereby avoiding all long distance charges. For example to dial someone on MIT's SIP Service simply dial firstname.lastname@example.org or to another SFU SofTel SIP phone dial email@example.com - where 2xxxx is your SFU assigned SofTel SIP local.
Desktop Video Conferencing - SofTel also supports videoconferencing where two SFU SofTel users or users of other compliant SIP services, using a simple PC or MAC camera, can view one another.
Why Don't We Just Use Skype?
There are three key advantages of using SFU's SofTel over Skype:
- you can use it from anywhere in the world just as if you were directly connected to SFU's switchboard - because in a sense you are directly connected;
- there are no long distance charges whatsoever when calling SFU, Vancouver local area or another SIP user;
- SFU's SofTel is a private secure system meaning that a 3rd party can't monitor your traffic (calls)
Some Potential Limitations
SFU's SofTel relies on the internet for network transmission and at times this can impact users in two ways. First, some services you use to connect to the internet, such as Datavalet at Vancouver Airport have blocked SIP services and SofTel simply won't work. At time the internet can become congested thus the quality of a call may be very choppy and unusable. But when it works, and that's most of the time, it's a secure, free, reliable service.
SofTel works on both modern PC's and MAC's - i.e., equipment new in the last three years. It is also recommended to use a set of good quality computer headphones and microphone - available from SFU Microcomputer Store.
Interested in trying/buying SFU's SofTel? Contact the SFU Bookstore/TechShop at 778-782-8324 or e-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
SFU SofTel Terms, Conditions and Caveats
SFU SofTel's service is available to SFU Faculty and Staff, including retirees. TA's and RA's that are on SFU's payroll system are also eligible.
Since SofTel both consumes one of SFU telephone numbers and is a cost to SFU we will only sell one license to any individual. When someone is no longer employed at SFU their SofTel service will cease.
SofTel is based on Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology using Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) standards and is transmitted over the public internet network. As such it is not intended to match "hard" phone services offered by SFU and should not be viewed as a replacement for our normal telephone service. Specifically, this service does not conform to the University's 911 service and is not capable of serving as a 911 emergency phone. Further, SofTel is subject to the transmission characteristics and congestion of the public internet which sometimes results in poor voice quality and "choppy" audio conditions. Thus, users are advised that the service may not be available or suitable on all occasions.
To use SofTel users must be connected to the internet and not all internet service providers (ISP's) permit the use of their connections for voice services. Some ISP's block VoIP and hence SofTel will not always work - Datavalet service at Vancouver Airport is one such provider that blocks access. There is nothing that can be done in such circumstances. Also, due to technological differences, there may be locations where a service such as Skype might work but SofTel doesn't and vice versa. SFU can offer no guarantees that SofTel will work from the user location.
Charges for Service
All charges for the use of SofTel will follow the normal billing and administrative processes in place for the University's existing phone service.
Given the numerous factors that can impact any SIP based phone service, many of which are totally beyond SFU's control, we can only provide support that ensures SofTel works from on campus (i.e. within SFU's network). If your service works from on campus but not elsewhere, regrettably SFU cannot help with diagnosing problems with connectivity, headphones/microphones or other issues on an individual basis.
We will provide a feedback site that we will moderate to better understand user experiences to continually improve our services and also a place (e.g. a blog, wiki or threaded discussion facility) where users can exchange tips and techniques.
SofTel works over the public internet for which SFU pays annual usage fees, hence there is a cost associated with each SofTel call. Obviously we cannot afford to provide unlimited service, for example users could not simply leave a video or audio connection open indefinitely. While we would on no occasion eavesdrop on any conversation we will be keeping records of usage (number, length, etc.) and, should we identify regular excessive usage, nominally defined as more than an average of a couple of hours per day, we reserve the right to discuss the purpose with the user and to suspend their service if such activity is not for SFU related work activities. Incidental personal use is permitted.
Longevity of SofTel Service
SFU is introducing SofTel for an initial period (until April 2009) under the terms of agreement with the software provider and will review the service at that time. Depending upon usage, costs, technical issues and other factors there are no guarantees that we will be in a position to continue to offer SofTel past that point and users should be so advised. Further, if it becomes apparent at any time that the service is no longer sustainable at reasonable cost SFU reserves the right to cancel the SofTel service with minimal notice. Note: Once this initial period of "free" SofTel service is over (April 2009) there will be a monthly charge for continued use of SFU SofTel.
I have read, understood and accept the conditions of use for the SofTel service.